Rhododendrons. Brett Myers was surrounded by rhododendrons. Attached to slender, woody arms, their waxy, oblong leaves stroked his face as he descended. Thicker and thicker they grew, the peaty stink clung to his skin like earthy B.O.
He knew he should’ve taken the other fork in the trail, but that one followed the ridge line high. He took the under, hacking through the overgrowth and sliding ever downward. Is this even a trail? he wondered, slicing another branch with his machete. I didn’t come out here to blaze a trail. I just thought meditating at the base of a waterfall might be more fulfilling than closing my eyes at the peak of a view.
He wanted to hear something while his eyes were closed. Something besides the wind between his ears, the rustling of his hair. The gurgling explosion of water falling over rock – a symphony that would still his meditative mind. The mere act of imagining those million little cracks of sound could keep his mind blank for decades, maybe infinity. He only sought an hour, one hour alone in the woods at the base of falling water.
How many rhododendrons blocked his way? Thousands? 572? Infinite tendrils of overgrowth that, added together, spelled a frustrated day in the woods. He only heard his grunting as he worked, wiped dirty perspiration from his eyes, hoped every advance didn’t reveal a nest of yellow timber rattlers poised to strike. Behind him, the decomposed earth was perpendicular, ascending almost to heaven. How will I ever climb back out of this place? he wondered as he battled the next snaking batch of bush and vine.
He could hear water. Somewhere below. If he strained, he could see a gash in the earth just beside him, a yawning crevice that might devour him if he stepped a foot wrong. Rocks at the bottom seemed to become a cave, but the light through the leaves could be making that void seem real. He was too weary to care about the details.
Another series of slices, and his feet touched a muddy bottom. Whitewater gushed from left to right just a few feet ahead, broken by a block of granite that looked big enough to hold a man. He stumbled into the sun-warmed space and looked upstream. A wall of white liquid greeted him, broken by a dead tree. The rock at the base of a waterfall. The peaceful place he sought. The reason for his labors. With a quick glance toward the sliver of heaven above, he melted into the rock.
The last thing he remembered was the stilling cacophony, molecules of water, racing by him to become one with the sea.
Brett Myers writes a blog, Surface Nuisance. He lives in Summerville, South Carolina with his wife and son. For the number of posts by the Cootchie Mama, he played The Price is Right and undercut a guess with 572. Tomorrow, we will reveal the winner of this whacked little series.